Employee unions of the Indian Railways are up in arms against the Ministry of Railways’ decision to appoint a group of secretaries to look into developing 50 railways stations and bring them up to world-class standards. To make this happen, the Ministry had also permitted private companies to operate 150 private passenger trains.
However, the All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF) has raised its voice against privatisation of the Indian Railways, and its members protested with black bands tied across their arms. The protestors feel that private companies will not be able to serve passengers satisfactorily.
Members of the Southern Railway Mazdoor Union (SRMU) and Dakshin Railway Employees Union (DREU) also held protests by burning copies of the Niti Ayog recommendations.
The protestors believe that if the workshops and production units of the Indian Railways are corporatised, employees will cease to be government staff. They will also lose out on the security that comes with a government job and all the associated monetary benefits, reservation and promotions. The employees are also upset that the Ministry took such a major decision without discussing it with them.
Also, they drew attention to the fact that private trains will not have ticket checkers, mechanics and guards. Operations will all be managed online, which means reservation centres will become redundant leaving many jobless.
However, Union Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal said that he has ruled out the privatisation of Indian Railways, but he does believe that huge investments will be required in the Railways even if it continues as an Indian government entity.